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Lost in time – Uruguayan beach town Cabo Polonio

Cabo Polonio is an iconic Uruguayan beach town where time has stopped 100 years ago. Though modern technologies are slowly entering this sleepy town, most of the places are still proud of no Wi-Fi, electricity or running water available to their guests and strive to preserve it this way...
Lost in time – Uruguayan beach town Cabo Polonio

Travel in time in Cabo Polonio

Time travel is possible in a small Uruguayan beach town Cabo Polonio. Without modern road connection, electricity, wi-fi, running water or sewage system, Cabo Polonio is a unique gem of times passed and a true paradise for everybody who wants to escape the stress of the modern life.

Cabo Polonio lies in the northern coast of Uruguay, between another 2 popular beach towns Punta del Diablo and La Paloma. If you were trying to find what places to visit in Uruguay, I’m sure Cabo Polonio was among the top 5 of them.

The whole experience of visiting Cabo Polonio is adventurous right from the start, as you have to get there on a bumpy ride with a huge opened-double-decker truck... While most people decide to only spend a day in this sleepy town, you can easily indulge in its peaceful atmosphere for much longer. The only thing you’ll need is swimwear to enjoy long days on the beach and a camera to capture the amazing sunsets…

Read more about visiting Cabo Polonio:

Watch the video from our visit to Cabo Polonio:

 

How we’ve spent one day in Cabo Polonio

Our day started slowly by driving from Punta del Diablo on the very north of Uruguay south to La Paloma. Right in the middle of the road between these two beach towns lies Cabo Polonio, an iconic fisherman’s village where we’ve decided to spend the day.

Finding the bus terminal was not very hard, as on the straight road alongside the coast-line, there is no opportunity to get lost. We park at the big parking place and bought a return ticket for UYU 250 (5 €). The next truck was leaving in 20 minutes which we’ve spent at the visitor’s centre at the terminal reading about the history of this town…

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Riding on the sand dunes

When I saw the huge double-decker trucks my eyes sparkled with adrenalin. I forced Primož to climb to the first row on the top of the truck, to get the most of the ride. What a surprise that instead of smoothly starting the engine, another truck came and pulled ours on a rope!?

I already started to be sorry for the first row on the top as that meant catching all the dust from the truck in front of us. Luckily, the engine has started soon and we continued on our own.

The bumpy ride took about 15 minutes through sand dunes, jumping up and down like on a cheap attraction in the fun park, after that, we’ve arrived at the coast and continued more peacefully by the coastline to the village.

In front of us, we could only see a long stripe of an empty beach, with a little rocky peninsula and the village on it. All we could hear besides our roaring engine was the sound of waves and wind and the fresh smell of the ocean…

….and then the engine died again and the driver couldn’t get it back up. Just like many other passengers who already climbed down the truck and started walking, we were also considering a nice walk on the beach, when the truck engine started and within 5 more minutes, we’ve arrived at Cabo Polonio.

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The first encounter of Cabo Polonio: Expectation versus reality

Sand instead of asphalt roads, fresh air and music supporting the laidback atmosphere of the village welcomed us in this tranquil place. Hmmm, music? Everything I read about this town said no electricity… Instead, I heard a radio, saw signs for cold beers and even card payments. Then I’ve noticed ventilators for wind powers on the roofs and rainwater collectors and realized that perks of modern life can be brought by many alternative ways even to the most cut-off places…

Our first steps lead through what we’ve considered the main street as it was lined with artisanal shops and bars. I wasn’t expecting such a warm day at the end of March and the weather forecast also didn’t quite match the reality of sunny 28°C, so my first steps lead to the shops to buy a bikini top and a sun hat made of sea-weed – both local hand-made goods. Now we were ready to spend the day in this peculiar beach town.

The walk through the town didn’t take much time and soon we were standing at the same artisanal street as half an hour before.  Ok, let’s take it easy, we thought and headed to a bar for our first cold beer of that day. We’ve also stayed for lunch there before deciding to continue with exploring more distant parts of the peninsula.

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Sea lions, shipwrecks and bleeding sunset

First, walk through the sea lions colony under the lighthouse accompanied by a strong smell of fish. Didn’t stop us though from sitting on the rocks and enjoying watching these animals play. We continued to the lighthouse and climbed on the top. Enjoying the view of the whole peninsula – the village, beach on the north and the south, sand dunes in the west and endless ocean on the east.

Historically, this place was a border point between Portuguese and Spanish colonizers as well as an endpoint of many ships during stormy nights before the lighthouse was built. Though the ocean bottom was not explored properly, it promises to be hiding many shipwrecks. For us, every dark spot in the ocean was a shipwreck full of treasures and every slightly bigger wave was a dolphin or an orca, swimming away with its secret location…

Since the day was not even remotely over after visiting the lighthouse, we first went for a walk to the north beach, jumping over the big waves and enjoying having it mostly for ourselves (perks of the low season).

Then we headed to the local grocery store to buy some beers and snacks and prepare for the sunset on the south beach, aiming for catching the bus back to the terminal at 7 p.m. – before it gets completely dark and we won’t be able to find the way to the bus stop in the village with no night lights…

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What to do in Cabo Polonio

  • Faro Cabo Polonio – a lighthouse dominating this village with a great view from the top – you can see the whole village, the dunes and both beaches as well as the sea-lions colony under you
  • The sea lions colony – located right under the lighthouse, sit on the rocks and enjoy songs of these beautiful animals
  • Walk in the village – it’s a very small village and there are no well-defined streets, which provides a great opportunity to explore it on your own
  • Enjoy the beach time – the village is surrounded by beaches on the north and south
  • Go surfing – whether you are an experienced surfer or a complete beginner, rent a surf or ask for surf lessons
  • Take some time off – sitting on the beach with a local beer in your hand or at the beachfront bar with a fancy cocktail, just enjoy the peace and tranquillity of this place
  • Go shopping – alongside the “main street” there are many handicrafts shops, buy some souvenirs and support the local businesses
  • Take loads of photos – the lighthouse, the sunset or the rustic appearance of the whole village is a paradise for all avid photographers
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How to get to Cabo Polonio

  • the turnoff to Cabo Polonio  is located northeast of La Paloma at Km 264.5 on Ruta 10
  • park your car at the bus terminal Puerta el Polonio from where you can either continue by a truck transformed into an open-air double-decker or by foot (8 km)
  • there’s also public transportation driving to the bus terminal from Montevideo or other smaller towns. Check the schedule of the trucks on the terminal’s website and schedule of public buses here.

What you need to know before going to Cabo Polonio

  • There is limited electricity (generators, solar and wind powers), make sure to charge your phone or camera beforehand
  • There is one small grocery store in the whole village
  • Many places don’t have Wi-Fi, that also means cash only! (though some restaurants and hostility services are already using mobile Wi-Fi for card payments and also for their guests)
  • There are not banking services – bring enough cash
  • There is accommodation available – hostels, bed and breakfasts as well as apartments for rent, the price per night starts at 20 € already and can go as high as 200 € per night. Make sure to check whether electricity and shower with hot water are available.
  • Book your accommodation in advance in the high season (January-February)
  • Think twice about booking accommodation close to the beach around the lighthouse – the fish smell can be very strong.
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